I want to ask the officials from the Department about this because I am disturbed to hear the taxpayer will be handing out €14.8 million for the coming year without a formal service level agreement, letters, plans and whatever. The Chairman will be issuing a recommendation that a formal service level agreement be in place. I am shocked to hear one does not exist.
I cannot understand how an Accounting Officer in the Department has not learned lessons. I will not go back to what happened in Punchestown years ago, with money handed out without proper agreements. There were reports done at length. Here we are with the same Department handing out €14 million a year for the next number of years and no service level agreement. The Committee of Public Accounts will not stand over that and will be saying it is not acceptable. It is not acceptable in any Department to hand out that amount of taxpayers' money.
I will ask two or three questions on this. In relation to the discussion on the subvention - it is called the horse and greyhound fund but I will call it taxpayers' money in case people think it is coming from somewhere else - of €14.8 million the Department is handing out next year and the €13.6 million it handed over this year, would the Department be aware approximately of the settlement that has been referred to in the High Court? That had to come into its reckoning in some way as needing to be met from the funding.
I had a quick look at the amount of taxpayers' money going into the sector ten years ago. It is in one of the charts we got. In 2006, the State was putting in €14 million. I know the funding dropped down to €11 million, €10 million and whatever. Total income on those occasions was approximately €50 million, including the taxpayers' amount. Therefore, the taxpayer was subventing the industry to the tune of approximately 28% of its income. The chairman, Mr. Meaney, states the income has gone down and there has been an cumulative drop but the amount of the board's income coming from the taxpayer is increasing as a percentage of its income each year. In 2014, the accounts show total turnover from racing activities as €25 million and the taxpayer put in €11 million. That was a significant proportional increase in the Department's costs. Next year, the Department proposes to give €14.8 million. Mr. Gleeson should be able to tell us whether the Department has a ballpark figure of what is a right amount for the taxpayer to be putting into the industry as a percentage of its total income. As I said, it seems to be increasing.
In view of that, I would look at the governance of this. The organisation, as Mr. Nealon recommended, could not exist without taxpayers' money. We accept that is the case. There is not a representative of the Department on the board. Given that such a large proportion of the expenditure and income involved in Bord na gCon is taxpayers' money, the structure needs to change so that there is somebody there monitoring this and representing the Accounting Officer in the Department. Essentially, the Department is handing it over to an independent company. Not finding any fault with it, I am merely saying to protect the taxpayers' interest, the Minister should have a representative there to watch that.
Has Mr. Gleeson any observations on what was taken into account in how the Department arrived at the €14.8 million figure? Approximately, how many are employed in the greyhound sector because there has to be some connection between how much the taxpayer is putting into a sector and how many people are benefiting? The following is a simplistic and probably unfair figure but the only one I can get from looking at the figures today is that there are 110 full-time staff in the organisation, although the organisation hires extra staff for catering for race meetings. I do not even like to say it but that amounts to approximately €124,000 per annum for those employed in the organisation but the staff in the organisation is only a fraction of the number in the industry. Can Mr. Gleeson tell me the basis on which the Department arrived at this €14 million, how many people in the industry is the Department supporting with this grant and how much per person in the sector is the taxpayer subventing it?